This article argues for the existence of two models of corporate identity among tailors and seamstresses in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. Tailors viewed their guild as a collection of families, in which masters held privileges on behalf of their wives, sons, and daughters. For the seamstresses, the defining aspects of their guild were its exclusively female membership and the rare degree of legal and economic autonomy it bestowed. These two models derived from material and nonmaterial factors, including working practices, guild admissions policies, and notions of gender in the household economy. They emerged in conflicts between the two guilds in Paris in the 1670s, in Caen in the 1740s, and in the mémoires written to defend the corporate system in 1776. These findings underline important differences between male and female corporate privileges and reveal the spread of gender as a category of economic and social organization.


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Print ISSN
pp. 339-371
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2004
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